I overheard a conversation on the street the other day. One woman said to another woman, “She’s so lucky. Married 40 years and he never cheated on her.” The other woman sighed as if she’d been passionately kissed. I wondered why never cheating was something to celebrate instead of something to expect. When we begin to admire expected, ordinary, behavior and label it “extraordinary” by inference or by honor — we’re on the short path to the dissolution of civilization where every act and deed is heroic and deserving. The “expected incorruptible” reminded of the story of Monica Brown I recently watched on 60 Minutes. Pvt. Brown was the second woman in USA history to be awarded the Silver Star.
Brown was the only medic with her detail on the day of her reckoning:
Brown’s instincts kicked in with bullets whizzing by and mortars exploding around her. This young woman, who was not even supposed to be in front line combat, threw her body over the wounded paratroopers to protect them. “It was an uncontrollable situation,” she remembers. “And I just dove over Spray, ’cause Spray can’t defend himself. It’s not like he can go anywhere to take cover. So, I dove over him. Make sure he didn’t get any shrapnel or anything from it.”
Then, while still under fire, Santos and Brown dragged the injured men into a pick-up truck. Brown once again covered them with her body as Santos drove them to an area where they could be treated.
“At first, I thought that Smith was the most critical. Because, you know, he had a laceration on his forehead. And it was pretty deep. And I didn’t know if he had any brain injury,” Brown says.
Michael Green, Brown’s sergeant major with the 82nd Airborne Division, and Colonel Martin Schweitzer, her former brigade commander, both recommended her for the Silver Star.
“We asked Specialist, then Private Brown, you know, ‘Why’d you do it?’ Just tryin’ to get inside her psyche that, you know, she put herself in that kind of risk,” Col. Schweitzer remembers.
Asked what she said, Schweitzer says, “Her answer was just plain as day, and looked at me and Sergeant Major like we were crazy to even ask that question. And she said, ‘It’s my job.’ And it’s just powerful, powerful.”
Is “doing your job” enough of a reason to award a Silver Star?
Here’s is the criteria for the medal:
The Silver Star is awarded to a person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
Smith and Spray — the two men Brown saved — refused to be interviewed by 60 Minutes because they do not feel women belong “on the front line” — even though there is no front line in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Other men in her company did not think she acted extraordinarily. In fact, one solder damned her with faint praise using gender bias and age inequality as thresholds of excellence:
“People ask, you know, like, ‘Was she a superhero? Did she do anything, you know, super woman, super heroic?’ No, she did her job,” Best says. “And she did a very, very good job doing it. Now, that fact that she was 18 and, you know, a female and all, you know, that adds something to it.”
What do you think?
Did Monica Brown earn her Silver Star?
Or was she unjustly awarded the medal just because of her age and gender?